Tag:Justin Verlander
Posted on: November 14, 2011 5:22 pm
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Kemp signs, and 2013 free-agent class takes a hit

MILWAUKEE -- Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder made it to the free-agent market.

Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez didn't.

It's always fun to look a few years down the line to see who what treats each year's free-agent marketplace will offer.

And it's always important to remember that those treats may or may not reach the market.

Matt Kemp could have been a free agent next winter. Jered Weaver could have, too.

Kemp and Weaver chose to take the big money upfront and stay in Southern California instead.

For now, Matt Cain and Cole Hamels remain on the list of possible 2012-13 free agents. In fact, right now Matt Cain and Cole Hamels probably top the list of 2012-13 free agents.

Hamels may not make it to the market, either. The Phillies would like to sign him to a long-term deal this winter.

Cain may not make it there, either. And it wouldn't exactly be shocking if Zack Greinke (another potential 2012-13 free agent) stays in Milwaukee.

The 2012-13 class was never going to match this winter's class. There wasn't a Fielder, and there wasn't a Pujols. There wasn't a Verlander or a Felix, two ace starters who would have been free agents this winter if they hadn't signed long-term deals with their own teams.

With Kemp and Weaver, though, the class would have featured a potential MVP and a potential Cy Young winner.

Without them, it just doesn't look as good.


Posted on: October 13, 2011 7:43 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 9:13 pm
 

Tigers win, and incredible ALCS goes on

DETROIT -- The Tigers needed a big performance from Justin Verlander.

They also needed some breaks.

They got both, and this fantastic American League Championship Series is headed back to Texas for the weekend. And as unlikely as it seemed late Wednesday night and Thursday morning, there's now a real chance the Tigers could win this series.

The Rangers still lead the ALCS, three games to two, but you could argue that both remaining pitching matchups -- Max Scherzer vs. Derek Holland in Saturday's Game 6, and Doug Fister vs. Colby Lewis if it goes to Game 7 Sunday -- would favor the Tigers.

It should be a fascinating finish. This series deserves it.

There was more drama Thursday, with the Tigers trying to save their season on a day when manager Jim Leyland declared that both Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit -- the only two relievers he really trusts -- were unavailable due to too much work the last three days.

Leyland pushed Verlander to a career-high 133 pitches, finally pulling him after he allowed a two-run home run to Nelson Cruz (who else?) on the 133rd pitch.

Oh, and that 133rd pitch was a 100 mph fastball.

Crazy.

Kind of like the sixth inning, when this game (and maybe this series?) turned.

It was 2-2 when the sixth began, and the Rangers had the bases loaded with two out against a tired Verlander. But on Verlander's 113th pitch, Ian Kinsler hit a ground ball to third for an inning-ending double play.

On to the bottom of the sixth, which began with a Ryan Raburn single. Miguel Cabrera followed with a ground ball that seemed headed for third baseman Adrian Beltre, and for a double play. Instead, the ball hit the corner of the third-base bag, hopped over Beltre and rolled all the way into the left-field corner for a run-scoring double.

One break for the Tigers.

The next break: Rangers manager Ron Washington, who has gone to his bullpen early and often in every game of this series, was ultra-slow to get his bullpen working behind starter C.J. Wilson.

Washington inexplicably allowed Wilson to pitch the rest of the sixth inning. Victor Martinez followed Cabrera's freak double with a triple, and Delmon Young followed that with a home run.

With an off day Friday, with Verlander's pitch count soaring and with the Tiger bullpen spent, it was a strange move.

But what a game, and what a series.

Remember, Young wasn't supposed to even be playing, after he strained his oblique in Game 5 against the Yankees. Martinez is ailing, as is Alex Avila, whose home run gave the Tigers their first run of the day.

Incredible series. And now it goes on.




Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:03 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 2:12 pm
 

Tigers stay on rotation, rain threatens Game 2

ARLINGTON, Texas -- When Justin Verlander threw just 82 pitches in a rain-shortened start in Game 1, the Tigers considered changing their rotation and bringing their ace back a day early in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

Sunday, they decided against it.

The team announced that Rick Porcello will start Game 4, as scheduled. Verlander will return in Game 5, assuming the Tigers win one of the next three games to keep the series going. The Rangers won the twice rain-delayed Game 1, 3-2, on Saturday night.

Rain is also in the forecast for Sunday night, and a baseball official told CBSSports.com's Scott Miller that MLB is concerned about starting a game that could be subject to multiple delays, and could throw off both teams' pitching plans. There's a chance that Game 2 could be postponed; if so, it would be played Monday, likely in the late afternoon.

In that case, baseball would drop the travel day from the schedule, and pick up with Game 3 on Tuesday in Detroit, as scheduled. No rain is in the Detroit forecast until Thursday, the day of Game 5.

That fits, with Verlander scheduled to pitch that day. The Tigers ace had his Game 1 start in the Division Series ruined by rain, and he pitched just four innings before the rains came Saturday in Texas.

"If anywhere in the country is having a drought, bring me in," Verlander said.

Verlander said Saturday night that he would be available to pitch Game 4, if asked. But since Tigers manager Jim Leyland doesn't plan to use Verlander on short rest, Verlander would only make one more ALCS start, regardless. Given that, it makes more sense to have him at full strength in Game 5, rather than take a chance on having him at diminished strength in Game 4.

Porcello threw two innings after the rain Saturday, but threw only 22 pitches.

Saturday's rain had less effect on the Rangers' plans. C.J. Wilson threw 96 pitches, so bringing him back early was never a consideration.
Posted on: October 9, 2011 1:03 am
Edited on: October 9, 2011 1:46 am
 

With rainy win, Rangers take away Verlander edge

ARLINGTON, Texas -- With Justin Verlander available for Game 1, the Tigers had an edge in this American League Championship Series.

As long as he won.

He didn't. You can argue about why he didn't -- another rain-interrupted game? Verlander's atypical lack of command? the Rangers' strong lineup? home-plate umpire Tim Welke's small and sometimes inconsistent strike zone? -- but you can't argue the result.

You can't argue that whatever Verlander edge the Tigers had before the series began has already disappeared.

You can even argue that it's already been replaced by an Alexi Ogando edge for the Rangers, because their reliever-turned-starter-turned-reli
ever turned in the pitching performance of the night. After the second of two rain delays, Ogando pitched two hitless innings, setting up the Rangers for their Game 1 win.

Either way, one game into the ALCS, the Rangers have a bigger edge than one game to none, a bigger edge than any home team should have when it wins the opener, which the Rangers did, 3-2.

In fact, one Tigers person went so far Saturday afternoon as to say that Game 1 was almost must-win for the visitors, a truly unusual situation in a best-of-7 series. His reasoning: To win the ALCS, the Tiger pitchers must slow down a very hot Rangers offense, and Verlander was the guy with the very best chance of doing it.

The Rangers didn't exactly beat up on Verlander. Before he left the game at the first of two rain delays, he had pitched four innings and allowed three runs.

But this is worse for the Tigers than Verlander's rain-affected start in the Division Series against the Tigers. He threw just 25 pitches that night at Yankee Stadium, so he was able to come back for Game 3.

Verlander threw 82 pitches Saturday night, meaning the soonest he could return would be for Game 4. It's just as possible that manager Jim Leyland would hold to his original plan and pitch Verlander in Game 5.

Either way, it's likely he'll start just once more in this series.

And it's a series that the Tigers already trail.

They could win Game 2 Sunday, and come home with a split. That's not bad.

But the Verlander edge seems to be gone. The Tiger edge may be gone with it.

Posted on: October 7, 2011 6:25 pm
 

ALCS will go seven, and the Tigers (may) win it

The boss wants me to tell you who will win the American League Championship Series.

I'd rather tell you how long it's going to go.

One round into the 2011 postseason, I'm convinced that I'm better at guessing that.

Before the playoffs began, I said (somewhat ridiculously) that every series would go the distance. And I wrote (even more ridiculously) that the Yankees would win it all.

Three of the four first-round series went the full five games (and not one series was a sweep).

And the Yankees? They're out.

So here's my ALCS pick: It's going seven games. It's going to be a great series, just as good as the series that the Tigers and Rangers won to get here.

And . . . the Tigers are going to win it.

I'm sure of it . . . no, I'm not. But I do believe it, mainly because this is the series where Justin Verlander is the difference.

It was supposed to happen in the Division Series, because Verlander was going to start twice, and win twice, and that meant the only way the Tigers were going to lose was if the other team won each of the other three games.

Then the rain came, and the Tigers beat the Yankees just as much because of Max Scherzer and Doug Fister and the bullpen as because of Verlander (maybe more so).

But that rain meant that Verlander is now on regular rest for Game 1 of the ALCS, Saturday night in Texas, against C.J. Wilson.

Advantage, Tigers.

Wilson is good, the best pitcher on this winter's free-agent market. Verlander is the best in the game.

It's a seven-game series, not five. Tigers manager Jim Leyland has resisted using Verlander on short rest, which would mean Verlander can contribute just two of the four wins the Tigers need to advance.

The Tigers will need contributions from their other starters, just as they did against the Yankees. But the rest of the Rangers' rotation doesn't offer guaranteed wins, either.

These are two fun teams, two good teams, and I can't pick either one with much conviction.

But the difference is Verlander, and that means the Tigers are going to win.

In seven games.

Posted on: October 2, 2011 6:43 pm
 

Tigers win, and now they have Verlander next

NEW YORK -- Bet the Tigers don't mind having Justin Verlander in Game 3 now.

I'm also thinking that the Yankees now won't throw Miguel Cabrera another strike in this series. Of course, I'm still wondering why they threw him a strike Sunday.

A lot changed in this American League Division Series Sunday, when the Tigers rode Cabrera, Max Scherzer and a shaky Jose Valverde ninth inning to a 5-3 Game 2 win over the Yankees.

The series is tied, at one win apiece. But now if the Yankees don't beat Verlander on Monday night in Detroit, their season rests in A.J. Burnett's unreliable hands in Game 4 Tuesday.

Sunday morning, the Tigers were the team with their season on the brink. They had lost just one game, but they'd gone through both Verlander and Doug Fister, their two most reliable starters this year.

They had no idea what to expect from the talented but erratic Scherzer, the sometimes-forgotten pitcher the Tigers got as part of the three-team Curtis Granderson-Austin Jackson-Ian Kennedy trade after 2009.

What they got from Scherzer on Sunday was 5 1/3 no-hit innings. What they got was six-plus innings and no runs.

Meanwhile, Freddy Garcia made the one mistake you absolutely can't make against the Tigers. He let Cabrera beat him.

With a runner on and two out in the first, he got far too much of the plate and gave up a two-run home run. With runners at first and third and one out in the sixth, he put another pitch on the plate and Cabrera's single made it 3-0.

While Cabrera was huge, Yankee cleanup hitter Alex Rodriguez is 0-for-8 in the series and is once again hearing boos at Yankee Stadium.

More shades of 2006, memories the Tigers will try to fan by having Kenny Rogers throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Verlander takes the mound Monday night at Comerica Park.

The similarities are there now, with rain, a Yankee win in Game 1 and a Tiger win in Game 2.

In '06, Rogers carried a shutout two outs into the eighth inning of Game 3, and the next day Joe Torre batted A-Rod eighth the day the Yankees were eliminated.

It's too early to say this is a repeat.

But Verlander is pitching Game 3.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 11:32 pm
 

No need to argue; Yankees have the edge

NEW YORK -- Argue all you want about whether Friday night's rain helped the Yankees or the Tigers.

Saturday night, there was no need to argue.

Could this night have gone any better for the Yankees?

Ivan Nova looked like a real postseason starter -- even though he was technically pitching in relief. Robinson Cano looked like an MVP -- even though the fans were chanting "M-V-P" for Curtis Granderson.

In a series where Justin Verlander can likely now affect only one game, the Yankees are already ahead, one game to none, after Saturday's 9-3 rout (in a continuation of the game that began in  Friday's rain).

And in a series where there could now be four games in four days, Nova pitched so well (and the Yankees eventually scored so much) that manager Joe Girardi could avoid using almost all his top relievers. He shouldn't have had to use any of them, but after Nova got the Yankees to the ninth inning, Luis Ayala was so bad that Mariano Rivera had to get the final out.

Nova took over for Sabathia, who pitched two innings before the rain. Doug Fister took over for Verlander, who pitched one inning before the suspension. On this night, it was advantage Nova, and advantage Yankees.

No one is saying, one game into a long postseason, that the Yankees look unbeatable. No one is saying, one game into a short series, that the Tigers can't come back.

But in one game over two days, the Yankees grabbed a clear edge.

They reminded us how strong their lineup can be. They showed us that they have a starter other than CC Sabathia capable of throwing some shutout innings.

And they can win the series even if they never beat Verlander -- and if they lose another game, as well.

As for the Tigers, they'll look back on the moments when Game 1 turned against them.

Specifically, they'll wonder about third-base coach Gene Lamont's decision to send Alex Avila home on a one-out Jhonny Peralta single in the fifth inning. It was a 1-1 game at the time, Nova had begun looking a little vulnerable, and the Tigers could have had the bases loaded with one out.

Instead, the Yankees got a perfect relay from Curtis Granderson to Derek Jeter to Russell Martin, Avila was out at the plate, and the inning ended with the game still tied. The Yankees then took the lead in the bottom of the fifth on Cano's double off the wall.

The next decision came an inning later, when Fister was beginning to falter. Tigers manager Jim Leyland allowed him to face Granderson (who walked to load the bases), then brought in right-hander Al Alburquerque to face the left-handed hitting Cano.

Cano is basically immune to lefties (during the season, his OPS against right-handers was .884, vs. lefties .879), and Alburquerque was very, very good against left-handed hitters (.176).

Alburquerque hung a slider, Cano sent it soaring to the right-field seats for the Yankees' first postseason grand slam in 12 years (Ricky Ledee hit the last one), and rest of the game didn't matter.

Cano ended up with six RBI, tying a Yankee postseason record set in 1960 by Bobby Richardson and tied by Bernie Williams (1999) and Hideki Matsui (2009).

The Tigers ended up with a one game to none deficit.

And no one was talking about the rain.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 11:49 pm
 

Could rain help Tigers beat Yanks again?

NEW YORK -- Yankees and Tigers in the playoffs, and rain in the Bronx.

Last time, it helped the Tigers. In fact, in 2006, the Tigers were convinced that a Game 2 rainout in the Bronx turned the series in their favor.

This time, they're not so sure.

"That was different," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Friday night. "We'd already lost a game."

It was different. But it's possible to see this rainout as helping the Tigers, too.

The biggest effect of Friday's postponement, which came after 1 1/2 innings had been played with the score 1-1, is that aces Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia will most likely pitch just one more time each in the series. Both are expected to start Monday, and with Game 5 scheduled for Thursday, neither could come back for it, barring a lot more rain.

"With this team, it lines up well," Verlander contended Friday. "We have four starters ready to go."

The Yankees had planned to use just three starters in the series, with Sabathia pitching Game 4 and Ivan Nova coming back in Game 5. With the rain Friday, manager Joe Girardi said he would use Nova in the continuation of Game 1 on Saturday, with Freddy Garcia starting Game 2, now on Sunday.

Girardi didn't announce his rotation beyond that, but with games now scheduled on four consecutive days, it almost certainly means the Yankees will now use four starters. That likely means a start for A.J. Burnett.

In that case, the matchups for the rest of the series would be Nova and Doug Fister in the resumption of Game 1 Saturday, Garcia and Max Scherzer in Game 2 Sunday, Sabathia and Verlander in Game 3 Monday in Detroit, Burnett and Rick Porcello in Game 4 Tuesday, and Nova and Fister in Game 5.

First, baseball needs to get the next two games in, with rain possible both Saturday and Sunday in New York. Baseball officials were optimistic, but they had also been optimistic that Friday's game could be played.

Instead, rain began in the bottom of the first, and got heavier in the top of the second.

"I couldn't see anything," said Tiger catcher Alex Avila, who struck out against Sabathia in the second.

"I was just hoping he'd throw a ball," said Ryan Raburn, who took strike three. "He's tough enough to hit when it isn't raining."

At that point, officials called for the tarp, and eventually the game was called. Under a rule instituted after the 2008 World Series fiasco in Philadelphia, the game is picked up from that point, rather than re-started.

"Hopefully Doug [Fister] comes in and finishes the no-hitter," quipped Verlander, who gave up a run but not a hit in the first inning.

Verlander said he'd be comfortable pitching Sunday, but that even then, he would get only one start in the series, since he wouldn't come back on short rest (in Game 5).

"I think short rest after [Friday] might be asking too much," he said. "Fortunately, I have a manager who looks not only at the present but the future, too."

Verlander remembers 2006, because he pitched Game 2, which was played on a Thursday afternoon after originally being scheduled for Wednesday night. The Tigers believed that the Yankees were given more information quicker than they were, and that Yankee players were on the way home before the Tigers were told that the game had been called.

"I think that kind of rubbed us the wrong way," Verlander said. "I was out there warming up [on the Wednesday night], and I was the only one out there. This is a little different situation.

"This isn't what either side wanted."

In 2006, the Tigers used the rainout, and the hint of disrespect, as something of a rallying cry. Friday night, they felt that they'd been treated fairly by everyone but Mother Nature.

"This will be fine for us," Verlander said.

But maybe not as fine as in 2006.

 
 
 
 
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